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Managing Side Effects

Cancer and its treatments affect every person differently. The cancer team at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center understands that the more patients know about how to manage their care and its side effects, the better they will feel.

In This Section

  • Anxiety

    Anxiety is a normal reaction to cancer and may increase feelings of pain, interfere with sleep, cause nausea and interfere with daily life.

  • Appearance

    Cancer treatment can affect your appearance; however, with the right guidance and products, you can look good and feel better.

  • Blood Count

    Cancer treatment can cause low blood count, a condition called neutropenia, which can be treated.

  • Bone Health

    Certain types of cancer treatment increase the risk of developing osteoporosis which can lead to bone fractures.

  • Concentration and Memory

    Memory, concentration and attention problems are common side effects of chemotherapy.

  • Constipation

    Cancer treatments and medications, and lack of fiber, fluids, and movement can cause constipation.

  • Dehydration

    Dehydration can be a common but preventable side effect of many cancer treatments.

  • Depression

    Patients and family caregivers need to be evaluated for depression throughout the course of cancer treatment.

  • Diarrhea

    Some cancer medications can cause diarrhea that can lead to dehydration if not properly managed.

  • Digestive Changes

    Some cancer drugs and treatments may cause digestive issues and/or water retention.

  • Dry Mouth

    Dry mouth can be a side effect of many cancer medications and radiation to the head and neck.

  • Eating Well

    Eating well during cancer treatment can improve general well-being and decrease hospitalizations and delays in treatment.

  • Fatigue

    Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery and other treatments.

  • Fertility

    Cancer treatment can potentially affect fertility because of the effects of medical, radiologic or surgical treatments used to combat the cancer.

  • Fluid Retention

    Fluid retention in the face, hands, feet or abdomen can result from the fluids administered during chemotherapy or the chemotherapy itself.

  • Hair Loss

    Hair loss is a common side effect of cancer treatment. The result is temporary and hair typically grows back within months.

  • Incontinence

    Urinary incontinence, the inability to control the flow of urine, is a possible side effect of some cancers and cancer treatments.

  • Insomnia

    Insomnia is a very common, and yet underreported, side effect of cancer and cancer treatment.

  • Intimacy

    The effect of cancer treatment on sexuality varies with each person. Some are unaffected and others experience many changes.

  • Loss of Appetite

    Several steps can be taken to improve a loss of appetite during cancer treatment so that you stay well nourished.

  • Lymphedema

    Lymphedema occurs when poorly functioning lymph nodes or lymph vessels prevent the flow of lymphatic fluid causing chronic swelling.

  • Mouth Sores

    Several things can be done to help mouth sores that occur as a result of cancer treatments and or radiation to the head and neck.

  • Nausea

    There are different types of nausea that may occur during the course of cancer treatment.

  • Neuropathic Pain or Neuropathy

    Cancer treatment may damage your nervous system and cause problems with nerve function.

  • Neutropenia

    Neutropenia refers to a blood condition characterized by an abnormally low number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends the body against infections.

  • Pain Management and Control

    Pain during cancer can have many causes including the cancer itself or cancer treatments and can be managed with the use of medications.

  • Shortness of Breath

    Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, can be caused by several factors and treatment depends on identifying the cause.

  • Stress

    Speaking with a counselor or practicing relaxation techniques can help many cancer patients cope with the stress of cancer and treatment side effects.

  • Taste and Smell

    Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, frequently cause changes in taste and smell.